For Imagine Her, a youth led project funded by donors in Soroti district, training young women and men how to develop home grown hygienic sanitary towels is not only a viable economic vocation but also a powerful tool to keep girls at school longer
Helping adolescent girls learn how to manage their monthly menstrual cycle in the most cost effective ways is a trending topic in Uganda today.
For Imagine Her, a youth led project funded by donors in Soroti district, training young women and men how to develop home grown hygienic sanitary towels is not only a viable economic vocation but also a powerful tool to keep girls at school longer.
This is why the not for profit organization is traversing the countryside to introduce the concept of homemade sanitary towels to poverty burdened communities. More than ten volunteers working at the organization have been training more than 100 adolescent boys and girls in Gulu district how to make the cost effective sanitary towels from widely available cotton wool.
They were at a free medical camp organized by The Hind's Feet Project in collaboration with power distributor UMEME.
Nathan Okiror, the Founding Director of Imagine Her, a not for profit organization says their focus is to increase access to sanitary towels among adolescent girls across the country.
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Okiror founded Imagine Her in 2016 after undertaking a baseline survey, in which he found out that 80 percent of school girls in Soroti district were dropping out of primary school due to stigma related to menstrual health.
He says involvement of men in maternal and reproductive health is critical in eliminating stigma, which compels girls out of schools.
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The "Re-pad" is made up of three layers from the outside to the inside namely the wings (Part A), the inner part (Part B) and the leak proof (Part C) made out of locally available polythene sheet, which expectant mothers purchase from the local shops for delivery.
It is recommended that the pads be made of cotton clothes for ease of cleaning to prevent staining.
Okiror says deriving the materials from used cotton clothing has many advantages since they can easily be found at home.
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Some 2,000 adolescent girls and boys have been trained on making these reusable sanitary pads in Northern, West Nile and Eastern Uganda at various medical camps.
Okiror says the project is slowly revolutionizing the management of menstrual cycles among adolescent girls in and out of school as communities embrace the initiative as a lucrative economic venture.
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In adolescent tent B, groups of young girls and boys numbering between six and eight are seated in circles with pieces of threads and hand needles in hands sewing imagine her re-usable sanitary pads.
They are working with Macintosh pieces of cotton clothes that have been shaped and cut for them by ten volunteers from Imagine Her and Hind's Feet Project from three tables just next to the learners.
The volunteers must work fast because the demand for the pieces is high among the youth. Every one of the youth is busy sewing happily.
It is in tent A where these youth were received earlier that incoming learners are being introduced to the concept of re-usable sanitary pads for the first time. Maria Nassaajja, a volunteer with Hind's Feet Project is training them.
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Reagan Okema, a 16 year old young man is taking part in the training. He says he is learning in order to go home and teach his 14 year old sister who could not come because of home chores.
For Godfrey Ojok, a sanitary pad is a complete stranger. He too is interested in learning how to make pads. Among the young women training on how to make the re-pads in Unyama is 15-years-old Joyce Layet. She is a primary six pupil at Akonyi Bedo Primary School. She has been getting free sanitary pads from her school donated by Watoto Church. She says every time her stock is depleted, her mother must buy for her to attend school.
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Layet does not know how much her mother spends on buying disposable pads but she admits using old rugged pieces of clothes during the worst of times when her mother is unable to buy her pads.
The Saturday free medical camp was organized to increase health literacy among communities in Unyama Sub County in Gulu district.
Sandra Muhanuka, the Hind's Project Director said teaching adolescent youth how to make hygienic sanitary pads for managing menstruation is a game changer for keeping girls at school.
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Muhanuka says training on making re-usable pads has become a flagship programme of the free medical camps since it was integrated two years ago.
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Many of the young women and young men trained during the medical camp said they knew very little about the management of menstruation health before the training.
The Ministry of Education and Sports, says absence of pads is responsible for absenteeism of girls and school dropout. Various studies indicate that girls miss up to 28 days of schools in a year due to menstruation. Initiatives such as Imagine Her are becoming critical in securing access to education for girls in Uganda.